Seven people died on Czech roads over Easter. The police say that drinking and driving and adverse weather conditions are to blame, although drivers are reportedly more cautious than usual after Thursday’s horrific pile-up on the country’s main highway. Due to bad weather reports many people also gave up on the idea of traveling to their country cottages for Easter and the country’s main roads have been less congested than usual.
A proposed amendment to the penal code would introduce house arrest as a form of alternative punishment, Justice Minister Jiří Pospíšil said in a televised debate on Sunday. The minister is pushing for the amendment to be passed, arguing that house arrest as an alternative punishment for lighter offenses would alleviate the pressure on the country’s overcrowded jailhouses. According to the minister’s estimate a fifth of all prisoners in Czech jails – approximately 3,000 people -could be punished by house arrest. The minister argued that the cost of electronic bracelets and the respective police equipment would be cheaper than feeding and housing the offenders.
Ex-president Václav Havel said in an interview for Czech public television on Monday that the Czech Republic should meet Washington’s request for the US to be able to deploy a tracking radar on Czech territory since the country had always been a good ally. Mr. Havel said Czechs had a lot to thank the United States for, since independent Czechoslovakia would most likely not have been established without US support, not would the Iron Curtain have been lifted without its influence. The ex-president rejected a claim made by the former Soviet president Michail Gorbachev who said the US radar would clearly be directed against Russia. “A radar is not directed against anyone, it is part of a defense system,” Mr. Havel countered.
Communications experts say that the information system along the country’s D1 highway from Prague to Brno is inadequate and needs to be modernized. They say this is particularly evident during emergencies such as the huge pile up last Thursday in which over 100 vehicles collided on an icy stretch of the highway completely jamming the road and making work difficult for emergency crews. The highway remained closed for hours and traffic was slow for the rest of the day. The Road Maintenance Authority has promised to install more cameras and information billboards along the highway which would give drivers early warning of adverse weather conditions and pile-ups.
Prime Minister Mirek Topolánek on Monday ended a five-day tour of Yemen, Vietnam and the United Arab Emirates. The negotiations in all three countries focused primarily on business and trade ventures. According to the CTK news agency cooperation with the United Arab Emirates looks particularly promising. Czech firms are interested in building high-rise buildings and bridges in the United Arab Emirates and there is a chance that the Vítkovice holding company might build a huge recreational complex in Abu Dhabi with ski slopes, golf courses and restaurants. The UAE is the Czech Republic’s second biggest export destination outside of Europe. The main export article is currently glassware.
The ultra-right National Party has offered to place a controversial anti-Islamic film on its website. The film by the Dutch ultra-right MP Geert Wilders describes the Koran as a fascist book that teaches intolerance and provokes violence. Several thousand people protested against it in the streets of Amsterdam over the weekend. Dutch TV channels have refused to broadcast it and the Dutch authorities fear that it could stir up violent protests in the Moslem world. A spokesman for the Czech ultra-right National Party said the 15-minute film should be broadcast all over Europe as a response to Islamic terrorism. The party has also offered its author Geert Wilders protection and asylum at an unspecified place in the Czech Republic.
One in four Czech women admit to being miserable cooks, according to a poll conducted by the CVVM agency. A full quarter of Czech women admitted that their cooking was nothing much and they could only manage a limited number of simple dishes. On the other hand 17 percent of Czech men said they were excellent cooks and had a number of specialties with which they wowed friends. In one fifth of Czech households couples take turns doing the cooking.
Heavy snow and icy roads are complicating road traffic in the eastern parts of the Czech Republic. The situation is said to be worst in Central and Northern Moravia where up to twenty centimeters of fresh snow fell overnight and in the course of the morning. Road maintenance crews have been working around the clock to clear the roads but they advise extreme caution. Drivers have been warned not to set out without winter tires.
The police are searching for a Dutch national who is believed to have kidnapped his six-year old daughter living in the Czech Republic. Rodney William Cowie, 38, allegedly picked up his daughter Charlie Tereza from her mothers’ house on Saturday morning for a day-out but failed to return her that evening as agreed. Cowie lives in Australia, but he spent the last three months in the Czech Republic getting close to his daughter who has been in her mother’s care since their divorce. His personal belongings have disappeared from the boarding house where he had booked a room until the end of March and he is said to have borrowed a car from his former brother in law which he failed to return.
The Union of Communist Youth has filed a lawsuit against the Interior Ministry, it was announced on Sunday. The Communist youth organization was banned in October 2006 because of calls in its manifesto for the revolutionary overthrow of the capitalist system and the nationalization of all property. The Interior Ministry argued that such demands contravened the Czech Republic’s charter of fundamental rights and freedoms, and successfully had the organization outlawed. On Wednesday, this ruling was upheld by a Prague court. But on Sunday, the head of the outlawed organization, Milan Krajča, said that this ruling set a dangerous precedent which put other ‘legitimate’ left-wing organizations at risk, and told journalists that the Union of Communist Youth had filed a formal legal complaint against the ban.
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