Police still don’t know what lead to the collapse of the railway tunnel under construction near the eastern town of Jablunkov on Sunday. The criminal police are now investigating whether a levee had been damaged during building work which could have led to the collapse. Some of the workers who were employed at the site said that the construction took place in a hasty manner. Vladislav Beneš of Subterra, the company in charge of the project, vehemently disputed such allegations. The tunnel was supposed to be built by 2011.
On the occasion of the 20th anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, the Czech town of Ostrava is recreating the atmosphere of the era of totalitarianism. As part of a three day project titled “The Road to Freedom,” residents, under the watchful eyes of faux secret police officers, can listen to speeches by Gustav Husák, take a ride in a bus from the Communist era and discuss the former regime with historians. Several plays and film projections complete the project that was organized by the civic association Pant.
The family of Natálka, a Roma child who suffered near fatal burns in the wake of a racially motivated attack in April, moved to a new home on Monday. After spending seven months in temporary housing in their hometown of Vítkov, her family is looking forward to more privacy in their new home, a few kilometers from their old home that had burned down after a Molotov cocktail attack. The three year old, who spent months recovering from the attack, is expected to be released from the hospital in the next two days.
The Czech Republic may become the site of an advance warning part of a new missile defense system in Central Europe, the US undersecretary of State, Ellen Tauscher, said in Prague on Monday. The system, which would be capable of gathering data, would use satellite information to monitor the launch of ballistic missiles. Tauscher said after talks with Czech Foreign Minister Jan Kohout that the Czech Republic has the opportunity to play a crucial role in the new design of a missile defense system.
President Václav Klaus says he thought about stepping down due to the Czech Republic’s ratification of the Lisbon treaty. In a discussion with students of the Prague faculty of law on Monday, he said the reason he decided against this step was that the elementary turning point in the direction that the European Union was going came as early as 1993 with the signature of the Maastricht treaty. Mr. Klaus is one of the most vehement opponents of the Lisbon treaty and the Czech Republic was the last of the 27 EU member states to complete ratification after an opt-out was granted in October.
The astrophysicist Jiří Grygar has refused to accept a government award for research and development that he was to receive based on his excellent research results and his ongoing efforts to make the sciences more popular. He explained that his refusal was motivated by the changes in financing for the Academy of Sciences that the government had made, which according to him damage the sciences. The new financing system will gradually lower the Academy’s budget and projects will receive funds based on their alleged practicality and will be subject to market principles.
The Czech government decided on Monday to overhaul its current regime for
supporting power production from renewables. It backed a change to the
existing support regime of guaranteed prices for renewable power
generation which includes an undertaking that the energy regulator cannot
cut feed-in tariffs by more than 5.0% in any single year. That limit is now
for renewables which recoup their investment costs and make a small profit
less than 11 years. The change is expected to take effect from 2011 but
still has to be passed by both houses of parliament.
The move is a response to the surge in solar power projects in the Czech Republic thanks to an estimated 40% cut in the cost of equipment over the last couple of years. At the same time Czech guaranteed prices for solar generated power are amongst the most generous in Europe.
On the occasion of the anniversary of the Velvet Revolution, President Václav Klaus has granted clemency in 43 cases, an unprecedented number. Four foreigners were among the people who were granted the privilege on humanitarian grounds. Among those who received pardon is Pavel Kudrik. He was charged with theft and driving without a license and is the father of Natálka, a toddler that became the victim of an arson attack in April. Mr Klaus stated that since the father had lost his home and his child was severely injured, he would not have to serve his sentence.
The Czech Republic is gearing up for the anniversary of the start of the
Velvet Revolution on Tuesday, when some 20 events in Prague alone will
commemorate the student demonstrations of November 1989. Some 1,000 police
officers are going to be deployed in the Czech capital. Events are mostly
being organized by civic organizations such as Opona, which has put
together a march that follows the original route of demonstrators, from
Albertov to Národní Třída, 20 years ago. At 6 pm, Narodní Třída
traffic will be shut down for speeches and a concert. Speakers at the
include Chinese journalist Kao Ju and Russian human rights activist Oleg
Orlov. The organizers expect some 10,000 people to attend.
In related news, Prime Minister Jan Fischer has indirectly responded to criticism that the current government did not prepare sufficiently to celebrate the 20 year anniversary of the start of the Velvet Revolution. Mr. Fischer explained that to put on an event like the large-scale celebration commemorating the fall of the Wall in Berlin last week, the previous government would have had to start preparations a year ago.
On Sunday, Cardiologist Jan Pirk of the Prague Institute for experimental
medicine suggested a new method to help remedy swine flu in the Czech
Republic. The method involves removing blood from the lungs and infusing
with oxygen before returning the blood to the lungs. British doctors had
first drawn attention to the procedure in an article that appeared in a
medical journal, stating that the procedure had proved successful in
healing 130 out of 160 patients that underwent treatment.
In related news, the state of the thirty-five year old patient in Ustí nad Labem, a mother who contracted the swine flu virus in her 29th week of pregnancy, is stable. Her doctor stated that she will remain in the hospital and that she will not undergo the experimental procedure suggest by Dr. Pirk