The Czech-born, US based economist and presidential runner-up Jan Švejnar has opened an office in Prague. A spokesperson for Mr Švejnar said hundreds of Czechs approach him with all kinds of petitions and problems. The office replies to these inquiries, coordinates Mr Švejnar’s media activities and organizes his lectures and tours. Jan Švejnar, who is a professor of economics at Michigan University in the United States, left Czechoslovakia in 1969. In 2003, he ran for the office of the Czech president against the incumbent Václav Klaus.
The Czech Education Ministry will introduce cyber-bullying as a punishable offence in Czech schools. A new regulation, which will come into force in January 2009, will allow headmasters to punish pupils who record teachers or classmates on mobile phones. Cyber-bullying will also include attacks via e-mail or posting offensive personal materials on the internet. Experts say that the number of such incidents in the Czech Republic has been on the rise. Last year, a pupil in Ostrava recorded a classmate beating three other school children; other students recorded their friends bullying a teacher in the classroom, and posted the footage on the web.
A 28-year-old US citizen has been arrested on felony charges by the police in Ostrava, northern Moravia, after he stabbed another man in the stomach on Sunday. The two men were arguing in a bar; the American then came closer and stabbed his companion. The injured man was taken to a hospital and was later released. A police spokesperson said that the US national is already prosecuted in the Czech Republic for grievous bodily harm and public disturbance he had committed earlier this year.
An amendment to the weapons and ammunitions act will tighten rules for obtaining firearms in the Czech Republic next year. The new regulation will introduce stricter conditions for reviewing applicants’ integrity and reliability. The new conditions will not be met by those who excessively drink alcohol or use illicit substances; the amendment also establishes harsher sanctions for weapon-related offences.
The car maker Škoda Auto has been unable to determine the number of cars to be produced in 2009, the head of Škoda’s board of directors Reinhard Jung told the German automobile magazine Auto, Motor und Sport on Saturday. Mr Jung also said that the car manufacturer, owned by the German Volkswagen, had to abandon its plan to put out more than one million vehicles in 2011 or 2012. Škoda Auto has been affected by the financial crisis and the shrinking world’s car markets; in November, the factory had to cancel its objective to produce 700,000 cars this year. Škoda also halted production several times before Christmas; its plants will resume production in the second week of January 2009.
The Mayor of Prague, Pavel Bém, has returned from a week’s holiday and denied speculations that he visited Antarctica. Several media outlets informed earlier this month that Mr Bém was going to climb Antarctica’s highest peak, Vinson Massif. The mayor, who has climbed the tallest mounts of six continents, including Mt Everest, told the Czech news agency ČTK on Sunday that he did spend his time off in the mountains but not in Antarctica.
The recently elected governor of the Central Bohemian Region, David Rath, told the daily Právo on Saturday that the region is considering introducing home deliveries of medicines. Mr Rath said that patients could order their drugs by telephone and have them delivered to their homes “just like pizza”. According to Governor Rath, only more expensive medicines would be distributed in this way. The proposal comes after Mr Rath abolished health care fees in the region, a promise he made during his campaign ahead of November’s regional elections.
Czech Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg has supported Israel’s right to self-defence against rocket attacks from the Gaza Strip. In a statement issued by the Foreign Ministry on Sunday, Mr Schwarzenberg said that firing rockets on civilian settlements was unacceptable and that it disqualified the Palestinian organization Hamas as a partner for any political dialogue. The Czech foreign minister expressed regrets over the poor living conditions in the Gaza Strip which make young people join radical organizations. Mr Schwerzenberg also said that the situation may only be improved if both sides restore cease-fire.
In a move which counters the plans of the government, President Václav Klaus signed a law which transfers a trauma centre in Brno, southern Moravia, into municipal administration. The law was approved by Parliament earlier this year, and it goes against the government’s plans to close down the hospital. While Health Care Minister Tomáš Julínek had asked the Constitutional Court to review the bill, opposition politicians in Brno, including the Social Democrat Governor of South Moravia, Michal Hašek, welcomed the president’s decision.
Czech Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek has said that the growth of the Czech GDP in 2009 will not drop below two percent. Mr Kalousek told the daily Mladá fronta Dnes on Friday that he did not expect the unemployment rate to rise by more than one percent next year but that the growth of salaries might be slower. Several Czech economists, including the US-based economist Jan Švejnar, said that any growth in 2009 will be a success as Czech economy depends on the development in Western Europe which has already been struck by recession.
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