- PM: Transport Minister Dobeš must fix vehicle registration system by Friday or resign.
- The funeral of renowned scientist Antonín Holý has taken place in Prague.
- A British university study points to giant tobacco companies’ alleged corruption of the Czech political process.
- Anti-corruption police are to limit access to files on politicians over leak concerns.
- President Klaus and several government ministers are set to attend the Olympic Games in London.
Transport Minister in the hot seat over vehicle registration system meltdown
Prime Minister Petr Nečas has given Transport Minister Petr Dobeš until Friday to repair ongoing issues with the country’s vehicle registration system - or resign. The PM called the situation unacceptable as the two men met to discuss the debacle on Tuesday. Meanwhile, Deputy Prime Minister Karolína Peake also expressed frustration with Dobeš over the new computerized vehicle registration system launched a fortnight ago, calling a meeting with the minister on Tuesday and telling the media that she was disappointed that Dobeš did not carry out a recent threat to revert to the old pre-upgrade registration system if problems were not repaired within two days. That deadline came and went as the Central Vehicle Database (CRV) continued to malfunction across the country on Monday, with reports coming in of security guards and police having to restrain upset visitors to the CRV offices in the city of Brno. The Transport Ministry is undertaking crisis meetings over the affair. The latest reports suggest the database could take years to fully fix, while the company behind the work, ATS Telcom must still be paid a promised 37 million crowns for the faulty system.
Prague 7 authorities turn to DNA in battle over dog poop
Municipal authorities in the Prague 7 district are considering taking DNA samples of dog poop not cleared up by irresponsible owners in an effort to identify offenders. Though the district is collecting 1.7 million crowns annually in fines from dog owners, it is spending 8 million crowns on cleaning up the mess. Frustrated officials have had enough and say that since all efforts have failed to engender a sense of public responsibility in dog owners, they are seriously considering resorting to the extraordinary measure of asking them to voluntarily submit samples at a cost of 600 crowns, which would then create a central database against which offending samples could be checked. Last year, Prague 7 authorities undertook a high publicity advertising campaign targeted at dog owners. Feedback is currently being solicited from locals on the DNA plan via a newly launched website.
Funeral of Antonín Holý takes place in Prague
The funeral of Antonín Holý, a Czech scientist who pioneered the development of retroviral drugs used in the treatment of HIV and Hepatitis B, took place in Prague on Tuesday. The ceremony was attended by around three hundred people, and included dignitaries such as Prime Minister Petr Nečas and Jiří Drahoš, head of the Czech Academy of Sciences. Holý died on July 16th after battling with illness. He was 75 years old.
British university study points to tobacco companies’ corruption of Czech politicians
A study undertaken by the British University of Bath and released last month claims to demonstrate that tobacco giants Philip Morris and British American Tobacco are successfully influencing Czech policy makers. The study suggests that lobbying efforts targeted at top officials have resulted in tax structures that favour their brands. The study, which was led by the University of Bath’s Risako Shirane and Professor Anna Gilmore, notes that the Czech Republic is also the only European Union Member State to not yet have approved a World Health Organization Framework Convention on Tobacco Control, adding “tobacco control has remained extremely weak in the Czech Republic, with the country’s policies recently being ranked the fourth least effective in Europe.” Meanwhile, analysing the report, news site IHned.cz pointed to a recent decision by Finance Minister Miroslav Kalousek to raise duties on cheap cigarettes by five crowns, while the more expensive cigarettes produced by tobacco giants such as Philip Morris, were only increased in price by two crowns. Responding to the accusations, Philip Morris said that governments were entirely free to choose how they legislate.
Anti-corruption police to limit access to files on politicians
Czech anti-corruption police are to limit the number of staff who will be able to access files related to investigations of politicians. The announcement was made by Tomáš Martinec, head of the Czech anti-corruption squad, following a meeting on Tuesday with the head of the Czech parliament’s immunity committee Bohuslav Sobotka. Both men are said to back the changes, which are designed to battle leaks such as those which recently occurred during the investigation of Social Democrat MP David Rath for corruption; in this case, surveillance tapes of Rath were leaked to the media. Reflecting on the move, Sobotka noted that the possibility of leaks was multiplied by providing all members of the parliamentary immunity committee with copies of transcripts of police surveillance tapes. But he also insisted that the changes would in no way impact the ability of committee members to access crucial documents relating to potential acts of corruption by politicians.
Hospital superbug deaths on the rise
The number of deaths in Czech hospitals from the superbug Clostridium Difficile has reached 50 this year, while for the whole of 2011, the number was 56 and in 2012, 33. Overall cases are also up – 1219 for this year, while for the entirety of 2011, the number was 1552, according to the Ministry of Health. The superbug is particularly harmful for patients with reduced immune systems following usage of antibiotics and has a significant impact on the elderly. According to the Czech Institute of Medical Microbiology head Otakar Nyč, the country must create a centralised database to monitor this issue; he and others are also pressing for the creation of a specialised laboratory to study the problem.
President Klaus to attend Olympic opening ceremony
Czech President Václav Klaus is to attend the opening ceremony of the London 2012 Olympics of Friday, while several Czech ministers, including Defence Minister Alexandr Vondra, Education Minister Petr Fiala and Minister of Health Leoš Heger are also preparing to attend the Games. While in the UK, Klaus will also be opening a new Czech centre in London and will attend a reception with Queen Elizabeth II at Buckingham Palace. He is scheduled to remain in London until Monday, supporting the efforts of several Czech Olympians. PM Petr Nečas and Foreign Minister Karel Schwarzenberg are not expected to attend the tournament in London.
Scientists use microorganisms to clean up Moravian river
Scientists in the country’s Olomouc region have poured around 400 kilogrammes of microorganisms into the River Blata in a deliberate effort to reverse the impact of a recent contamination, which has so far killed hundreds of fish. The effort, costing around 140,000 crowns, is viewed as a viable alternative to using chemicals, with the microscopic organisms expected to eat their way through the human and animal sewage, which leaked into the river from a farm in nearby Seničce in early June. Police are currently investigating the circumstances surrounding the leak; locals have already removed 700 kilogrammes of dead fish from the waters. The cleanup effort is set to take several weeks, while scientists warn that it may take several years for the river to fully recover.
Czech actor Milan Riehs has died aged 77
Třebíč born Czech actor Milan Reihs died on Monday aged 77, his colleagues announced on Tuesday. Reihs spent much of his career in the theatre, performing in Jihlava, Olomouc and later in Prague. He also acted in numerous on-screen projects, including “Je treba zabít Sekala” (1998), “The Adventures of Young Indiana Jones” TV series and the 1984 Miloš Forman film “Amadeus”. In 2006, he was awarded the Senior Prix Artists’ Foundation Award for his contribution to the theatre.
Section of Metro to close over weekend
A section of the green-labelled “A” line of the Prague Metro, running between Malostranská and Dejvice will be closed this weekend as engineers undertake repairs. The repairs to the line’s electrical system will cause yet more disruption: passengers at Můstek station will be forced to change trains for the remaining few stops to Malostranská. A special tram service is set to enable passengers to travel to Dejvická. According to a spokesperson for the Metro service, the repairs are essential in order to connect existing stations on the “A” line to the extension, currently underway, which will add four new stops beyond Dejvická by 2014 and an ultimate extension towards Prague’s by then re-named Václav Havel Airport some time around 2020.
Warm weather conditions are expected across most of the country, with clear skies and temperatures just below 30 degrees Celsius. Overnight showers are expected in central and southern Moravia, which will remain cloudy throughout Wednesday.