On Monday, a government session designed to determine the maximum amount of certain drugs for personal possession was postponed. A decision was made on the number of certain psychedelic plants that can be owned legally - Czechs can now own up to 40 pieces of psychoactive mushrooms and five cacti of varieties such as Peyote that contain the substance mescaline without facing legal consequences. Marijuana possession has been declared illegal for quantities over 15 grams. The government will finalize its list of fixed quantities that is meant to serve as a guideline for courts and police in two weeks, when it will discuss synthetic drugs.
A conference of the Party of European Socialists group at the European Parliament which began in Prague on Monday has drawn some 1,000 delegates. On Monday, the party’s head and former Danish prime minister Poul Nyrup Rasmussen was re-elected by a strong majority. The head of the Czech Social Democrats Jiří Paroubek said in a speech opening the gathering that had the Czech elections not been postponed, he most likely would have been talking to the delegation as the country’s prime minister. The goal of the two-day conference held at the Výstaviště trade fair hall in Prague is to increase socialists’ standing in Europe.
Passenger numbers increased at Prague’s Ruzyně airport in November – the first time numbers have risen this year. The number of passengers traveling through the airport in November grew by two percent compared to the figures of November 2008. The director of the airport told journalists they had noticed a gradual stabilization of the market, adding that a similar trend was expected this month. Prague airport has seen some 11 million passengers so far this year; last year a record 12.6 million travelers passed through Ruzyně.
An event organized by the animal-rights group PETA drew the attention of passersby on Prague’s Charles Bridge. As part of PETA’s “We’d rather go naked than wear fur”- campaign, participants passed out flyers wearing nothing but underwear, with their skin painted to resemble snake skin, a material sometimes used for the production of purses and shoes. The campaign is meant to persuade consumers to purchase items made from synthetic materials instead. Similar events have taken place in Geneva, Milan and Budapest.
A special team of Prague’s criminal police on Monday arrested 9 Rumanians and their Czech accomplices who had been preying on senior citizens. The group operated in and near post-offices, where they approached senior citizens who had just withdrawn money from their bank account with the post office. The pick-pockets are said to have distracted their victims by asking them for directions. Active over several months, the group is suspected to have been responsible for 42 acts of pick-pocketing and to have caused damages totaling about a half million Czech crowns.
At a lower house session on Monday, Prime Minister Jan Fischer confirmed he will be traveling to the UN-climate change summit in Copenhagen. President Václav Klaus, a known opponent of the global warming theory, will not be attending the conference. A Danish translation of his book on the issue has been available in bookstores in Denmark since last week. The conference is meant to generate a new document that will replace the Kyoto protocol and help reduce carbon dioxide emissions. Delegations from 192 countries have been invited to the summit that started on Monday and will end on December 18.
A court in Plzeň on Monday sentenced four members of the Zádamský gang, a 12-member group active in the Czech Republic since 1999. The group blackmailed entrepreneurs in the Western part of the country, forcing them to pay protection money. Two of the members received one-year prison sentences for disorderly conduct, while the remaining two were released on parole. Earlier this year, seven of the Zádamský gang’s members were acquitted at a Plzeň court trial; the Supreme Court then overruled the regional court’s decision.
The Communist Party has drafted a new amendment that would make the Institute for the Study of Totalitarian Regimes a part of the National Archives. The institute holds documents and files written by the Communist regime before 1989. Communist MP Kateřina Konečná told journalists on Monday that the party considers the institute’s decision to publish an index of former secret police agents wrong and that it could harm individuals and their families. Should the amendment be approved by the Czech parliament, employees of the institute would no longer have privileged access to the materials.
On Sunday, TV Nova reported that Prime Minister Jan Fischer had undergone special security training. Members of the Czech police security service division instructed Mr. Fischer, who is the first Czech prime minister to receive such training, in tactics of how to react in the case of a violent attack. The prime minister’s family has been under police protection since spring of this year, after police received information that members of the right wing extremist group White Justice were planning an attack on Mr. Fischer’s son. According to Mr. Fischer, there have been two occasions of serious threats against his family.
As part of its restructuring process, the loss-making Czech carrier ČSA will move all activities connected to the handling division of the company to its sister company, ČSA Support. The president of the airline, Miroslav Dvořák, told journalists on Monday that the goal of this step is to make spending in that branch more transparent and to increase overall efficiency. He added that he believes the airline’s business partners would also appreciate such a step, since it made the company’s business transactions easier to track.
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