The latest Harry Potter movie Harry Potter and the Half-Blood Prince has set a new Czech record for highest attendance in the first week of release. Almost 175,000 tickets for the film were sold at Czech cinemas in its first seven days. The previous record, of 150,000 viewers in its first week, was held by the final movie in the Lord of the Rings trilogy.
Three people were seriously injured when a coach they were travelling in overturned on a road near Lubenec, west Bohemia on Monday. The accident occurred when the bus, which was carrying 41 passengers, skidded at a sharp turn, left the motorway and turned over. Thirty of those on board sustained minor injuries, a spokesperson for the local fire service said.
The Czech prime minister, Jan Fischer, is beginning a three-day visit to Israel, where he is due to meet the country’s president, Shimon Peres, on Wednesday. He will also lay a wreath at Yad Vashem, Israel’s official memorial to the victims of the Holocaust. Mr Fischer is being accompanied by a delegation of Czech business people and will launch a “round table” for Czech and Israeli entrepreneurs at the Czech Republic’s embassy in Tel Aviv.
Police in Prague have summonsed the heavy metal singer Aleš Brichta to answer questions about the allegedly racist lyrics of the title track on his new album Deratizér (exterminator). The song contains the lines “politicians are making idiots of everybody while gypsies are stealing bicycles in the street, it should be dealt with by an exterminator”. The rock singer denies that the lyrics are racist, saying he employed artistic licence. On Tuesday the far-right Workers’ Party issued a statement condemning what they called the media “humbug” surrounding the song. For his part, Mr Brichta said he had nothing to do with the Workers’ Party; he said their name was reminiscent of the Communist Party, and that such groupings held no attraction for him.
The cabinet has backed a defence ministry plan to contribute 18 million crowns to the renovation of the tomb of the unknown soldier which is part of a national memorial on Prague’s Vítkov hill. The government also approved a “statute” that the defence ministry said would return to the tomb the significance it enjoyed during the inter-war period. The tomb of the unknown solider, featuring the remains of Czech soldiers killed at the battle of Zborov, was originally built at Prague’s Old Town Hall in 1922, but was removed by the Nazis during the second world war. It was rebuilt at Vítkov in 1947.
Police arrested a former head of the Czech football association, Pavel Mokrý, on Tuesday on suspicion of tax evasion. Two others were also arrested: another former member of the Czech FA executive, Václav Chvála, and Ladislav Malý, who was a senior official at the ministry of education and sports. One of the three, not believed to be Mr Mokrý, has been formally charged. The news website novinky.cz reported that police were investigating the activities of Fotbal Trading, a daughter company of the Czech FA which is currently in liquidation. Pavel Mokrý was chairman of Czech soccer’s governing body for four years; he stepped down at the end of last month.
The Roman Catholic Church in the Czech Republic will prepare a pastoral letter ahead of early general elections in October, its head Cardinal Miloslav Vlk said in an interview for Czech Radio. The archbishop of Prague said that the church did not interfere in party politics, but had the right to speak about politics in terms of the good of society. Earlier this year Cardinal Vlk clashed with the Social Democrats when he encouraged voters not to support those who had brought down the last government in European parliament and local elections.
Hundreds of Czech academics and their supporters protested in Prague on Tuesday against government plans to significantly reduce its funding of the Academy of Sciences. The state wants to cut subsidies for the institution from around CZK 5.9 billion to about half that amount by 2012, a move which academics say will threaten the future of research in the Czech Republic. They say qualified scientists will be fired and the country’s scientific infrastructure destroyed if the government goes ahead with the cuts. Tuesday’s demonstration was the first time members of the Academy of Sciences have protested since the fall of communism.
In related news, the office of the Czech ombudsman has agreed that social benefits could be given out in the form of food vouchers provided that each such case is decided individually. The town hall in Litvínov started issuing food vouchers instead of money in 2007. Town officials said this was a good way of preventing the abuse of benefits. The ombudsman’s office initially pro tested but its spokeswoman said on Monday that it was possible.
Some 80 foreigners from Germany, France, Spain, Italy, the United States and other countries started learning Czech at a summer school of Slavic studies, organized by the Palacký University in Olomouc, central Moravia. The month-long course also includes film screenings, trips and a theatre workshop.
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