About forty people gathered in front of the United States Embassy in Prague on Saturday to demonstrate in support of the release of five Cubans sentenced for "conspiracy with the aim of espionage" in the United States. Three of them received life sentences from a Miami court and two were given 15 and 19 years in prison respectively. According to the Communist Youth Association which organised the protest the Cubans were convicted unjustly. Speakers at the demonstration also protested against the Czech government's long-term critical approach to Fidel Castro's regime in Cuba and against the US plan to build a missile defence base in the Czech Republic. The Czech Republic has been one of the sharpest critics of Fidel Castro's regime on the international scene in recent years.
The CTK news agency reports that substitution treatment for opiate users is increasingly available in the Czech Republic. According to data from the institute of healthcare information and statistics, 949 drug users were treated with substitution medications, mostly methadone, in 2006, 14 percent more than in the previous year. Around 480 people applied for the therapy last year. Substitution treatment is available at 14 establishments, including prisons. According to data from the National Monitoring Centre for Drugs and Drug Addictions, 11,500 people were addicted to opiates in 2005.
Civic Democrat deputy and former finance minister Vlastimil Tlusty says he will not support the government-proposed fiscal reform in a parliament vote unless the cabinet considers his comments. Speaking in a live TV debate on Sunday, Mr Tlusty said the government proposal will not make the calculation of the tax base and tax return any simpler. The governing coalition will be in need of the votes of all coalition deputies to be able to push the reform package through. The opposition Social Democrats and Communists have already announced they will not support the government-proposed bill. The lower house is to start discussing the government's draft reform in June and a vote could be held at an extraordinary session during the summer recess. The government wants the changes to come into force as of January 2008
Only dozens of skiers took advantage one of the last occasions in ski resorts in the Krkonose Mountains, East Bohemia, on Easter Sunday as the ski season is coming to a close. Even though there are between 15 to 40 centimetres of snow on the slopes, Easter Monday will be the last day of operation this season in some resorts in that mountain range, but for example lifts in Spindleruv Mlyn are expected to run for another week. All ski lift were in operation on Sunday at the Ovcarna resort in the North Moravian mountains of Jeseniky- the only one still open to skiers in that area.
The Brno-based company Enantis and research teams from Masaryk University in Brno and the South Bohemian University in Ceske Budejovice are taking part in a Spanish project aimed at determining the structure and function of certain proteins. Jiri Damborsky from Masaryk University told the CTK news agency that scientists are planning to launch the proteins into space in a special container to try and obtain better conditions for their crystallisation. The Foton M3 project is studying some 40 types of proteins, the Czech teams are in charge of two.
Parts of the military area in Brdy, Central Bohemia, have re-opened to the public this weekend after 68 years. In all, 45 kilometres of new tourist routes and cycling paths will be open to visitors on weekends and national holidays. The opening ceremony on Saturday was attended by Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova and Chief-of-Staff Vlastimil Picek. Minister Parkanova said that the opening of the new routes was unrelated to the fact that the United States is planning to build a radar base in the same area. She said the routes will remain open regardless of whether the radar facility is built or not.
The town of Pilsen says it is preparing an extensive information campaign to discourage teenage drinking. As part of the campaign, co-organised by the Pilsen town council along with the Czech Forum for the Responsible Consumption of Alcoholic Beverages, concerts will be held and music videos projected on screens in the town centre. The campaign will also take the form of billboards, posters and leaflets. The local town hall has lately been facing a rise in underage drinking. During a recent raid on the town's discos and night clubs, police found 13 inebriated teenagers within a few hours.
Czech scientists and their American colleagues from Mayo Clinic are going to meet next week in the city of Brno to discuss the details of a planned international clinic research centre to be built in the city. They are going to assess the current state of the project and outline the forms of further cooperation on the two-billion-crown (96 million USD) project. Besides the US Mayo Clinic, other partners will take part in the project, among them the Brno-based Masaryk Institute of Oncology. The specialised international centre will focus on important projects of applied research, carry out advanced diagnosis and treatment of cardiovascular and neurological diseases as well as cancer, and offer high-quality education programmes to doctors and the public. The first part of the centre is scheduled to start operation in 2009.
Deputy Chairman of the lower house Jan Kasal of the Christian Democratic Party says the chances of the government-proposed fiscal reform being passed by parliament would increase if the reform package were split into two parts. If the tax reform were discussed separately from the social system reform, the legislation would stand a better chance of being passed, Mr Kasal says. In an interview for the iHned.cz news server on Saturday, Mr Kasal said there had not been sufficient discussion about the planned reform prior to its announcement earlier this week. He added he objected to the across-the-board 15-percent personal income tax included in the reform and was concerned about the impact of the changes on families with young children.
Ornithologists from the Plzen region report that the first swallows have begun returning from their wintering grounds to their nesting sites in the region. Male swallows are the first to arrive, while female birds will follow later. Experts say the return of migratory birds this year has been speeded up by warmer weather.