The Czech Agency Against Social Exclusion whose goal is to fight against
ghettoisation will begin operating in 12 Czech towns and selected areas as
of January. The Minister in charge of minority issues and human rights,
Dzamila Stehlikova, made the announcement on Friday. The agency will
operate in six areas in Bohemia and six in Moravia. The government will
officially approve its establishment in December, Mrs Stehlikova said.
According to analysis, there are more that 300 sites populated by the poor, mostly Romanies, that need to be addressed. Up to 80,000 people live in the ghettos. Most of adult residents are jobless, leaving families dependent on social benefits, while children are often sent to “special schools” for less gifted students. The government pledged to establish the agency in its policy statement and has set aside financial means for its operation in its next year's draft budget.
The derailment of a Pendolino train east of Prague on Saturday was an act of sabotage, Czech Railways have confirmed. A spokesman revealed there is evidence the track was purposely pre-cut on the outskirts of Prague near the town of Dolni Pocernice. The train derailed shortly before 12 pm; there were no injuries, but all six of the train’s cars left the track. The driver managed to react to a sharp thud beneath the vehicle, pulling the emergency brake. As a result, the train was reportedly moving very slowly when it came off the rails. Damages to the Pendolino have been estimated at 25 million crowns (the equivalent of roughly 1.4 million US dollars).
Martina Sablikova has won the 5,000 metres in World Cup speed skating in Kolomna, Russia, the third world cup event she has clinched this season, following victories in the 3,000 metres in Salt Lake City and Calgary. Sablikova has now accumulated 300 pts to keep her atop the World Cup standings, followed by Claudia Pechstein of Germany, and Clara Hughes of Canada.
In related news, the number of deaths on Czech roads dropped somewhat in
November: 83 fatalities compared to 96 the month before. However, the
overall number of road accidents in November rose: the month saw more
16,000 cases, some 670 more than in October.
Earlier in 2007 the head of the traffic police, Zdenek Bambas, resigned over the number the situation on Czech roads; his successor has promised to improve safety and to clamp down on reckless driving.
Czech figure skater Pavel Verner has won the men’s short programme in Grand Prix figure skating in Sendai, Japan. He finished just ahead of home skater Daisuke Takahashi, who won the competition’s NHK trophy last year. Verner finished the short programme with 78.15 points, followed by Takahashi with 77.89. US skater Stephen Carriere is currently third in the standings.
Two of Prague’s best-known Christmas markets opened on Saturday at the city’s Old Town and Wenceslas Squares, selling roasted chestnuts, mead, Christmas decorations, and traditional holiday items. 150 stands are selling wares. Saturday’s events include the lighting of the Christmas tree on the Old Town Square, to be attended by Prague’s Mayor Pavel Bem. Organisers expect between 15,000 – 20,000 visitors to attend. The markets will stay open until January 1st, 2008.
An 18-year-old driver was involved in an accident on Friday in north Bohemia which killed one pedestrian and injured two others. Those hit were three girls in their early teens, who had been walking by the roadside. The two survivors are in intensive care. The driver had a four-month-old licence. A breathalyser test ruled out alcohol as a factor in the accident, but police have revealed that the technical state of the vehicle was not in order.
According to Czech daily Mlada Fronta Dnes, two members of the elite Czech military rapid response unit are neo-Nazi sympathisers. The newspaper revealed the names of both, as well as the name of a member of the artillery allegedly known to police for neo-Nazi activism. Mlada Fronta Dnes has written that experts consider their place in the military a serious security risk; the daily also noted that troops with extremist leanings in Czech military units could be more widespread. Defence Minister Vlasta Parkanova has reacted to the news by stressing that appropriate steps will be taken if neo-Nazi leanings among the soldiers are confirmed.
The prosecution has charged former hospital employee Petr Zelenka with murder and attempted murder in a case which shocked the Czech Republic last year. The former nurse is accused of having killed seven patients and having planned to murder an additional ten people through the administering of the blood-thinning drug heparin in the hospital ward in Havlickuv Brod, where he worked. During the investigation, the suspect admitted to a number of the killings but his lawyer has stated the confessions were given under the threat of physical force, something which the police have denied. Mr Zelenka’s trial is due to begin in three months; if found guilty, Mr Zelenka could face a life sentence.