Czechs are the leading smokers of marijuana in Europe, suggests a
survey of EU states and Norway, Bulgaria and Romania which has just
been published. Some 22% of 15- to 34-year-old Czechs questioned
admitted to smoking the drug in the previous year.
The Czech Republic is also among the leading countries when it comes to the use of ecstasy, so-called magic mushrooms and methamphetamines, suggests the data released by the European Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addiction.
The environmental group Greenpeace says carp caught in the Czech Republic and neighbouring countries contains worryingly high levels of phthalate, a harmful chemical compound found in plastics. A spokesperson said Greenpeace found traces of the chemical far above prescribed limits in carp from three stores in Prague. Carp is the traditional Czech Christmas meal.
Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek says he will resign if he is
unable to form a government after elections next June. Mr Topolanek made
the comment in a newspaper interview on the eve of his party's annual
conference in Brno.
The right-wing Civic Democrats have been ahead in the opinion polls for some time but have conceded ground to the governing Social Democrats since Jiri Paroubek became prime minister this year.
The rate of HIV infection is rising relatively slowly in the Czech
Republic, with 70 new cases recorded so far this year, Miroslav Hlavaty
of the charity AIDS pomoc said on Friday.
Mr Hlavaty warned that young Czechs were unworried about catching HIV, with only 20 percent saying they use condoms the first time they sleep with a new partner.
According to the latest available figures over 800 Czechs are HIV positive and almost 200 have AIDS.
Legendary British rock band the Rolling Stones are set to play in the
Czech Republic's second city Brno next summer, with the promoters due
to announce the exact date next week.
The Rolling Stones were one of the first big foreign rock bands to appear in Czechoslovakia after the fall of communism when they performed at Prague's Strahov stadium in August 1990. They have since played here several times.
In related news, the opposition right-of-centre Civic Democrats have
called on the prime minister to dismiss David Rath as health minister,
saying his policies - including the forced administration of the VZP,
the largest state-owned insurance company - were harming patients in
the health sector. The call for Rath's dismissal was made during a
heated exchange in a Parliamentary debate on the health sector on
Thursday. The prime minister responded to the Civic Democrats in kind,
with his own charges levelled at several opposition MPs.
There have been allegations of inappropriate financial ties between some members of the Civic Democrats and the VZP, charges the Civic Democrats reject.
At the moment MPs are weighing the idea of an independent commission investigating financial management at the VZP. Debate on the health sector is to continue next week.
Late Thursday the Chamber of Deputies passed the draft state budget for 2006 to go to a final reading. The vote is scheduled for December 2nd. The budget for next year plans for a deficit of 74.4 billion crowns (the equivalent of roughly 3 billion US dollars), with around 885 billion crowns in revenues and 959 billion in expenditures. The December vote will be based on the resolution of the Chamber of Deputies budget committee, which discussed financial transfers last week. The committee reviewed almost 1,200 modifications valued at roughly seven billion crowns, submitted by individual committees, deputies, and the public.
A district court in Prerov has cleared former counter intelligence agent Vladimir Hucin of all charges. Mr Hucin had been charged with illegal possession of weapons, abuse of power and four other crimes that he was to have committed in the 1990s when he was a member of the BIS counterintelligence service. He had faced up to ten years in prison. Mr Hucin had always denied the allegations and said his case was a political one, as he tried to expose the infiltration of communists into the country's state administration.
Prime Minister Jiri Paroubek has said he would like to see Health Minister
David Rath head the Social Democrats' list of Prague candidates in
elections next June. The prime minister made the statement on Thursday,
stressing that the Social Democrats needed a strong leader in Prague to
face off against opposition Civic Democrat chairman Mirek Topolanek. The
Social Democrats have been seeking for an appropriate candidate for some
time. Previously, the prime minister pushed for the deputy prime minister
for the economy, Martin Jahn, to top the list, but Mr Jahn turned his
offer down. Former Czech EU Commissioner Pavel Telicka was also
considered, but he also refused.
So far, the Health Minister David Rath has viewed the offer favourably, saying he was likely "to accept".