The Czech National Bank reported on Monday that 6,853 counterfeit and altered banknotes and coins were uncovered in 2009, nearly 50% more than in the previous year. Czech currency comprised more than half of that number, with the 1,000-crown note being the most frequently counterfeited. The total value of the forgeries uncovered in 2009 amounted to roughly five million crowns as opposed to 2.3 million the year before. The vast majority of the banknotes were printed on ink jet printers. Nonetheless, the bank pointed out that Czech currency is comparatively very safe, with one forgery per 97,500 found in 2009 compared to one per 14,000 in the EU.
The Czech president, Václav Klaus, has said he will veto the reinstatement of full maternity benefits, recently passed by the Chamber of Deputies. Speaking at a press conference for the launch of his new book, Mr Klaus repeated on Monday that he will not sign any bill that would increase the state budget deficit. Left-wing parties helped by the Greens managed to push the benefits through Parliament last week in the face of opposition from the government as well as the centre-right parties. Maternal benefits were reduced in 2009 as part of the government’s austerity package, and the lower-house move to reinstate them will still have to go through the Senate, where the centre-right parties hold a small majority, before reaching Mr Klaus’ desk.
The head of the Czech Olympic Committee, Milan Jirásek, has praised Czech athletes for their performance at the 21st Winter Olympic Games. Overall, the Czechs won two gold and four bronze medals in Vancouver: the most successful was speed skater Martina Sáblíková, who clinched gold in the 3,000 and 5,000 metre races, while cross-country skier Lukáš Bauer got bronze in the Men’s 15 kilometre freestyle and men’s 4x10 kilometre relay. Šárka Záhrobská won her bronze medal – her first at the Olympics – in difficult conditions in the women’s slalom.
The Railway Inspectorate says that 39 people have died in accidents involving trains since the beginning of the year. The number marks an increase of one third compared with the same period last year. The Czech Press Agency says that a meeting of experts and officials at the beginning of February ended with no clear reasons for the increase in fatalities. 28 people over the last two months succumbed to injuries after being hit by trains, another 11 died in the 67 accidents that occurred on railroad crossings. According to the inspectorate, only a fraction of the accidents can be put down to a fault of the trains, with the vast majority of accidents carelessness on the part of pedestrians or drivers.
Meteorologists have issued low-level flood warnings on 26 rivers around the Czech Republic, as melting snow caused by the high temperatures of recent days continues to raise water levels. The Třebůvka in Moravia is now under a 2nd degree (mid-level) warning. Elsewhere 1st degree alerts are in place in other parts of the country, including the Elbe River in northern Bohemia. This winter saw snowfall within norms, specialists have said, but a higher concentration in cities like the Czech capital, where snow only began disappearing with the coming of milder conditions in recent days.
The internationally acclaimed art historian Anna Fárová has died. The daily Mladá fronta Dnes was the first to report on Monday that Ms Fárová had passed away at the weekend after a difficult illness; she was 81 years old. Anna Fárová is considered a pioneer in studying photography as a fine art, devoting more than 50 years of her life to the field. From 1970 she headed the Museum of Decorative Arts until she was forced out by the communist regime for signing the human rights petition Charter 77. In the 1980s she published widely in the West and her publications were credited with bringing Czech photography to international attention, popularising renowned photographers such as Josef Sudek and František Drtikol. Her work won her a number of important honours from the Czech Republic to the United States, including an Order of Arts and Letters in France and a Medal of Merit awarded by Václav Havel in 2002.
The District Court of Hradec Králové has ruled that amnesties given in
previous years apply to the Czech Republic’s oldest prisoner, Dr. Ludmila
Brožová-Polednová. The court made the decision last week in a closed
hearing and it was reported by the website Lidovky.cz on Monday. According
to the website, the court’s spokesman said that, due to previous
presidential and governmental amnesties, Dr. Brožová-Polednová must be
absolved of six years of her sentence, which equals the term to which she
was sentenced. The verdict is not yet effective; the state prosecutor in
Hradec Králové has filed an appeal and the case will be dealt with by the
Supreme Court in Prague.
The 88-year-old former communist prosecutor was imprisoned in 2009 for the judicial murder of Milada Horáková, a politician executed by the communist regime in 1950 after a show trial. Her attorney says the case is also being reviewed by the European Court for Human Rights in Strasbourg.
The percentage of children born to foreigners in the Czech Republic has tripled since the mid-1990s. According to a report by the Czech Statistical Office, the percent of foreigners born in the Czech Republic was 2.23 in 2008 compared with 0.69 in 1995. The overall number of foreigners has also climbed, with their constituting 4.2% of the population in 2009 as opposed to just slightly more than 2% in 1997. The rate of foreigners in the Czech Republic remains below the average for the European Union as a whole, where foreigners comprise almost 6% of the population. The highest rate is in Luxembourg, where 40% of the population are foreigners.
The US helicopter manufacturer Bell Helicopter Textron has purchased the Czech company Aviation Service. The price of the deal was not released. Aviation Service specialises in aircraft repairs and supplying aviation systems for civil and military customers and has annual sales of roughly 14 million dollars. Bell Helicopter’s director, John Garrison, said that the primary aim of the purchase was to acquire a foundation for the company’s further growth in to building new airplanes. Textron is a military defence contractor which deals with manufacturing airplanes and products, and is best known for their Cessna brand.
In other Olympic news, Bauer finished in 12th place, almost 14 seconds off the leader and well outside the medals in the Men’s 50 kilometre Classic on Sunday at the Winter Olympic Games. During the race, the Czech skier was involved in a crash with other competitors; in the final five kilometres he attempted to move ahead but was unable to gain any ground on his closest rivals. The race was won by Norway’s Petter Northug. The 21st Olympic Games wrapped up in Vancouver, Canada on Sunday night; the next Winter Games are to take place in Sochi, Russia, in four years’ time.
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